Election 2008: What an astonishing night | Street Jazz

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Election 2008: What an astonishing night

Posted By on Wed, Nov 5, 2008 at 9:47 AM

A friend from out of town phoned to tell me of his daughter’s giving birth yesterday. But even on the way to the hospital, she insisted her family stop by the polling place, so that she could cast her ballot for Barack Obama.

It has been that kind of year.

I still remember the spring and summer of 1968, when Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bobby Kennedy were assassinated, and the shocks to our nation that those two horrendous events brought. I still recall watching with numb fascination, as the nightly news would cover the unrest and riots in American cities that summer.

In a movie, the assassination of such men, so full of promise and with such large followings, would be a moment that might bring a nation to  pause, to cause people to say, “What are we doing? What brought us to this point?”

But then, one would have thought that the bombing of a church, resulting in the deaths of young children would be such a moment, when a nation would collectively search its soul, but that wasn’t, either. The country went on, struggling with ideas and concepts that so many found to be so threatening to a way of life that really wasn’t working anymore, but no few could envision anything else.

The warning that came with IBM punch cards, “Do Not Fold, Spindle or Mutilate,” came to describe what was seen as the desperate move to force people to conform to rigid moral and social standards.

I remember older people people sneering at young people who would rail against the government, and the injustices of the day. They had never protested or refused to be drafted - what gave these punks and cowards the right to do that? If we look at any letters column in any daily newspaper, that battle still wages today.  The holier-than-thou crowd, afraid of the different and the new, rail against them, and attempt to legislate against the future.

That they still succeed, as witnessed by some state initiatives this year, is hardly to our credit as a species.

******

Long before this election I realized that bigotry is alive and well in America

When I was in high school in the 1970s I thought that bigotry would be a thing of the past by the 21st Century. I was raised in the military, and so attended military high schools overseas. Though many adults we knew may have been touched by prejudice, few, if any, of my classmates were. I honestly believed that bigotry would be a thing of the past by the time we reached the 21st century.

But long before this election, I realized that bigotry has never really gone away. And, despite some naive pundit’s claims to the contrary, it isn’t solely confined to the older generation. I have heard truly horrible remarks come from the mouths of teenagers in the past few years.

Whether it be about other races, women, or those who practice a different sort of sexuality than the speaker, some of the remarks have all the hallmarks of the bigotry we heard in the 1960s.

*****

And then came Obama

I never saw a night like last night, with thousands of people filling the streets of American cities in celebration. They were even celebrating outside the White House! That in itself must have been particularly galling for the current occupant, I suppose.

I saw men and women laughing, cheering, and crying - and tears came to my eyes as well. This is a day that so many of us had been taught in school could happen, but in our hearts we had always wondered when America would actually be mature enough to vote in a black man.

Now we await the day when we will vote in a woman. Hopefully not a cliche-spewing Sarah Palin, but the one that History demands.

****

And we saw all the rage, as well

And we saw all the fear, and the rage, on the part of many who attended the McCain/Palin rallies, and on YouTube we saw the videos of some of the angrier supporters, giving vent to their feelings. And the emails!

Some of the emails that went out this year - all in the guise of humor - were so ugly, so racist, that I recoiled as soon as I read them on my screen. And they kept coming, from people you wouldn’t in a million years suspect of being bigots.

And the emails won’t stop, either, now that the election is over. The Michael Savages and his ilk of talk radio will continue to whip up the emotions of people who only have a dim memory of what rational thought is, and Obama’s words will continue to be twisted out of proportion.

But maybe this year is a start.  And that’s good enough for me, I think.

**

GOP and the future

I’ll bet the Republican party starts to learn all about “community organizing” in the near future. There won’t be any more stupid jokes about that, I guess.

**
Quote of the Day

And when he thinks it out, the revolutionary may be surprised to discover that the main necessity on both sides of a revolution is kindness, which makes possible the most astonishing things. To treat one's neighbor as oneself is still the fundamental maxim for revolutions. - Freya Stark

rsdrake@nwark.com

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